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Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

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Oshpaz, Uzbekistan cuisine

With the unpredictable and sudden nature of Covid this last year, a lot of people have had their lives disrupted and uprooted. Many have lost their jobs, and only a few have been given the opportunity to pivot. In comes new local, family-owned business. Small mom and pop shops operating out of their own kitchens homes for supplemental or sole income. I don’t know much about their legality or how they operate, so when Oshpaz serving out of Surrey approached me, I was happy to have them be my first such experience.

They promised an introduction to the “flavours and culture of Uzbekistan” through their cuisine. A nation and people I know nothing of, and certainly was curious enough to want to try. “ Uzbekistan is a country in Central Asia. It is surrounded by five landlocked countries: Kazakhstan to the north; Kyrgyzstan to the northeast; Tajikistan to the southeast; Afghanistan to the south and Turkmenistan to the south-west.”, as taken from Wikipedia

Precovid, this small batch operation had its eyes on popping up at farmers markets, and introducing their unique food there, before going mobile in a food truck. This dream would eventually lead them to a brick and mortar restaurant, serving the authentic Uzbekistan cuisine and experience. However, with their plans stalled, they waited a year before coming to the to conclusion: why wait? So here they are currently, offering take and out and delivery options. And as this is their soft launch, and they are still working out logistics, and therefore their menu is limited. As such, the following is what we had.

Pick up was from the owner’s house. The food was packed up with utensils and spices. Although traditionally, the cuisine is enjoyed with hands, eaten with the entire family, sharing from one large platter, all on the floor. Having heard this and a few other traditional dining intricacies, we decided to replicate what we could.

As per said traditions we began with dessert to warm up our appetites. This is “medovik”, a popular Uzbek dessert made with walnuts and honey. Despite all the cream between thin layers of flakey crumble it wasn’t too sweet. I can see the honey helping to strike up the appetite. And this was a nice start to our meal

From there you transition to your main, accompanied by a dense loaf of bread coated with olive oil and plenty of salt, called “non”. It offered texture and tastes breaks from the rice and meat below.

The national dish of Uzbekistan is “plov” it is a rice dish made with carrots, chickpea, and garlic. With Oshpaz you get your choice of protein between chicken or beef. We had one of each for two people. Comparing the two, you get more meat with the chicken, four pieces of breast meat to ration amongst all the rice below; as opposed to the only two pieces of beef. Therefore it is no surprise that my critique includes more meat than rice, and for the meat to be less dry by way of a sauce or a spread. Although the heavily oiled rice did help as a lubricant, and when you are reheating it later, you only need to pour it all into a pan and fry. The rice is definitely the highlight, I appreciated all the garlic used and the even distribution of spices.

And last was Uzbekistan‘s most common salad. An undressed serving of cucumber, tomatoes, and onion, with salt and pepper to taste. The goal with this is to add some freshness and cleanse the palette from all the garlic above.

As a whole, this was comfort eating, familiar flavours done with slight variations to make it new to your mouth. A great new experience to add to my foodie repertoire, though a little inconvenient to travel to, from where I reside in (Burnaby to Surrey). Here is hoping that they gain popularity and can offer their food on delivery apps, after all where else can you find Uzbekistan cuisine in the Lower Mainland?

The Rise, Dine Out Menu 2021

Dine Out Vancouver, the popular food fuelled event that encourages diners to get out and back into restaurants, after an expensive holiday season is back. Running from February 5th to March 7th, with some changes in lieu of the times. The restaurant industry still needs to fill tables and place orders, but the motivation greater. Therefore it is not surprising that a handful of restaurants are taking a different approach to their menus, not just a choose your own adventure of three course at set prices; but they are weighing their options and approaching their menus differently to serve the times and the people.

Take the modern Asian French fusion restaurant The Rise, on South Granville for example. This year they are serving up a shared menu for you and your bubble buddies. At $42 per person, you share your courses with a minimum seating of 2. And if you aren’t comfortable dining in, take out is available as well.

The menu for a party of two includes the an amuse bouche each to start, and your combined choice of 1 out of the 4 small shared plate options, 2 out of 3 large shared plate possibilities, and 1 out of the 3 dessert choices. I have listed all the options for your reference, but naturally will only go into detail of what we actually had between two.

But before we start, worth noting is that they also have a full drink menu, put together to highlight the dishes available. We tried the two available cocktails, over the mocktails, and wine and beer options.

The G & Tea cocktail was a mix of their green tea infused gin, mint, lemon grass, and tonic. It was described as holistic and botanical, an easy sipper, it drank like any other tea would to help cleanse in between bites.

The Holliwood North was a fun one. Bench 1775 Sauvignon blanc, lychee liqueur, elderflower soda, and a cranberry and orange mango popsicle. The drink changed as the popsicle melted. Adding sweetness and flavour to the other wise white wine forward beverage.

As for food, our meal began strong. Our favourite dish and the most memorable was the amuse bouche with its standout flavour profile. A grilled rice crisp with slow roasted tomato jam and sour plum powder. This was such a clever idea. The sour plum kicked up an already unique take on chips and salsa. The chips in this case being deep fried rice roll wrap, which we thought was very creative.

For appetizer we went for the “Chicken Seoul Good”, as it sounded a lot more substantial than the rice battered brussel sprouts, miso braised cauliflower, or the rice pilaf. This was Korean style fried chicken in a wild mushroom cream with truffle oil, grated parmesan. It had all the best things that you want topping your crispy chicken. There is no hiding the truffle essence, it was fully highlighted by the creamy mushroom sauce. The serving is definitely meant for 2, so rich that I couldn’t indulge in more than 2 pieces, which meant tasty leftovers.

For entrees we originally choose the uni pasta and coconut rib adobo, but our engaging server convinced us that the the pho flavoured sizzling hot plate was the way to go. It was the newest addition to the menu and created specifically for Dine Out.

“Sizzling Pho Sure ” – Sautéed andouille sausage, shrimps, chicken, okra, corn, lobster broth, and crispy pho noodles. It was good, but didn’t meet my expectations. It was more stir fry than the noodle dish I envisioned when I read “pho”. Although I did get pho from the gravy you pour over the sizzling cast iron. It tasted just like the pho broth. It was uncanny and I couldn’t wrap my head around how they did it, and at the same time wanted it over a poutine with bean sprouts and thin cuts of beef. As for the ingredients, individually they were tasty, but all together I didn’t find them cohesive. This was especially the case for the very zesty andouille. I ended up taking the leftovers and rolling into a wrap for an amazing snack later in the day.

The entree I came in wanting and enjoy the most was the “Uni-Versal Pasta XO Edition”. A striking squid ink pasta fully coated in sea urchin cream, topped with an free run egg yolk, their house X.O. sauce, sautéed prawns, flying fish roe, and toasted seaweed. You are given the option of adding on fresh local sea urchin for $7.50, dependent on availability; and I highly suggest you indulge in this. You get two pieces because you are sharing and it certainly elevates the flavour. If you have the uni early on, it umami flavour lingers and carries forward throughout the rest of the dish. As a whole, all the ingredients worked well together. The tender noodles popped with the fish roe, the sauce offered a cheesy and milky quality, different from any other pasta dish. This was a good amount of richness between two, although we ordered three entrees so was treated to leftovers the next day. And like all pastas, this is better when given a chance to let all the flavour soak in.

Having made adobo for the first time recently, I was intrigued by the “A Rib Tickler”. This was described as coconut adobo braised short beef ribs with a sweet potato pomme purée, sous vide egg, grilled kale, and savoury orange & pecan praline. We unfortunately didn’t notice that the dish was set down with a gravy to self sauce. The original result: what we thought was a bland dish in comparison to everything else. Having dressed it accordingly, things certainly got more flavour. Although no where near rich and fatty like we know adobe to be, and we certainly didn’t get any coconut. The dish as a whole was more refined, a delicate plate you would get from a fine dining establishment, more Westernized.

And for dessert we choose between the hard choice of either a matcha cheese tart, ice cream mochi, or a bubble tea cake. We were encouraged to get the latter from our server, and would later learn that this is one of The Rise’s crown jewel. A dessert that took them plenty of time to perfect, and boy did they. The “Boba Coma” is tea tres leches, brown sugar tapioca boba pearls, crème anglaise, crema, brown butter crumble, and warm caramel. Cutting into the cream topped, soft sponge was a cave of caramelized boba pearls. My only critique here was there was not enough pearls to pair with tea flavoured cake. So sort of how it is like when you drink actual bubble tea, I guess.

In short, this is one Dine Out menu I would recommend. Follow in my food steps, or try something different for appetizers, but be sure not to miss out on the uni pasta and bubble tea cake for dessert. Available now until March 7th for $42 per person!

The Rise
3135 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6H 3K1
604-559-8280
theriseeatery.com

Heritage Asian Eatery, Dine Out Menu 2021

With the world, and especially the restaurant industry being turned upside down on its head, it is no surprise that this year’s Dine Out Vancouver has a record breaking 350 restaurants participating. We are seeing restauranteurs get creative with their offerings, and what they can do to bring more patrons through their doors. We aren’t just simply seeing the traditional 3 course set menus with your choice between what appetizer, entree, and dessert you want. And it isn’t simply $15, $25, $35, or $45 price points anymore. The offerings reflect the times and what the restaurant is focusing on to get you down for a visit.

At Heritage Asian Eatery they are putting their best price forward. Rebranding as “a casual, counter-service restaurant that features a menu of Far-East flavours prepared with locally sourced ingredients and modern techniques.”, taken from their press release. Their Dine Out menu is a door crasher at $15, available during both lunch and dinner service. You are able to choose from any two of their Chinese BBQ offerings served over rice, finishing your meal with an in house made black sesame ball for dessert. With nothing else in the area offering Chinese style BBQ meats, they are certainly the go-to.

Your meaty choice are as follows. Chicken poached in house made soy sauce, served with their house made ginger scallion sauce. I would order this for the sauce alone, where tender chicken is given some zest.

The tangerine roast duck was my favourite. I don’t get duck often so when I do, and it’s done this well I relish it, more so with their sweet and sour plum sauce. Anywhere else you have to spend $15 for just this much duck alone.

And the honey roasted pork is an instant favourite for those unfamiliar with Chinese style BBQ. Although this have used more sweet and salty flavouring, but texture wise it was spot on.

As for the sesame ball, it was a fun teaser of their newer dim sum offerings. So good that we did ended up ordering some, because dim sum should really be all day food.

But to start, we were given some freshly fried shrimp crackers. Crispy and airy with little shrimp flavour, you are actually eating this more for texture than taste.

For dim sum we started with an order of their “Classic flavour bomb dumplings”. Similar in style to polish porgies they are available in beef, pork, or lamb. We had the latter with an dill and chilli vinegar dressing. It had a rich spice note to it, a unique flavour that I have not had in any other dumpling.

The Crispy wontons that were filled with prawn, pork, and chives were a familiar classic. Each made more tastier with plenty of sweet chilli sauce.

The BBQ pork above also found its way into a white dough bun. Saucy and sweet with a little bit of salt from the bao made this a tasty number.

The Crystal prawn dumplings were your classic ha gao shrimp dumpling. It tasted as expected, with a sticky wrapper.

And when I order hao gao, I always find myself adding sui mai to the mix as well. I like the flavour of the pork mix plenty, I just wished that the tobiko that topped each wasn’t steamed along with them, but instead placed last so that they remained raw and popped in your mouth.

And because our littlest guest wanted some noodles, we added on an order of their Dan Dan udon to round out our meal. Udon noodle, ground pork, pickled cucumber, cilantro, green onions, and peanut sauce. I have had this one before so expected the same today. But sadly, we all agreed that this bowl was bland. Although easily remedied when we added in the side order of sauce that came with the classic flavour bomb above. The thick soy and chilli mix inserted the heat and salt that we were originally missing from these otherwise saucy noodles.

Worth noting is their seasoning offerings. Like the oysters that were a show stopper in their large shells. Two seasoned in garlic and the other two in black bean sauce. They are a limited edition menu item, in celebration of Chinese New Year in weeks to come. They slurped down easy and were tasty with all the dressings piled high.

Similarly, their salted egg yolk buns saw a refresh in time for Chinese New Year festivities. They were dyed orange, and came garnished with spinach leaves. They were made to look like mandarin oranges, popular during the season as it refers to good fortune.

In short, $15 for a full meal and dessert is a great deal. Where else can you find Chinese BBQ in the city? And as I did, when you come in and save, you can then take those savings and try more of their menu for less.

Heritage Asian Eatery
382 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1R2
(604) 559-6058
eatheritage.ca

CinCin, $30 prix fixe menu

Got my hair done, and when it is short and your stylist curls it, so it is the only time it will look this good, you need to go out to showcase it. And coincidentally @pickydiner had the same idea and mind set. Individually we got primped and together we met up at CinCin for their $30 three course menu. (He starting before me.) Coincidentally running every including today (Wednesday), Thursday, and Saturday, on from now until February 4th. So you only have one week left to take advantage of this deal before they switch into their Dine Out 2021 menu.

Once a restaurant I deemed only for special occasions, now offering everyday dining prices, which was ideal for an impromptu meal as such.

We sat at the bar, because that is the best place to post up when you want to drink, and have the bar managers adjacent to suggest and craft the perfect cocktail for you. Plus great lighting.

The meal began with a complimentary serving of focaccia and potato bread, served with an olive tapenade swimming in quality olive oil. Delicately brined, delicious olives that would make an appearance in my meal again, and just as good then.

The amuse bouche was a shot’s worth of butternut squash soup. Four sips of rich cream, done in all the right ways. A great treat to set the tone of service and caliber to continue.

The following are the cocktails we enjoyed. Keep in mind, we did order them and had them spaced out throughout our multiple course meal.

The Luna Ross’s was a warming cocktail with red wine qualities. Made with Jim Beam bourbon, and Campari, Elisir Gambrinus, lemon, and orange.

The Yamabushi caught my eye as a spicy margarita with Japanese influences. Yuzu, cazadores blanco tequila, grand marnier, and a sprinkle of togarashi over top. It was a refreshing citrus cooler, but didn’t have the savoury umami flavour of the togarashi, as I had hoped.

And taking advantage of our seating, we then begin requesting cocktails not on the menu. Drinks from the vast repertoire of our skilled bartenders. This one was once on CinCin’s bar menu, but has since been retired. They couldn’t recall the name, but did regale us with a story. This was a mix bag: sweet from the egg whites, noteworthy for the liquorice notes, finished off with floral tendencies. It basically tasted as pretty as it looks with lemon juice, gin, egg whites, pineapple, and Liquore Strega. The latter is an Italian spirit with a fun story. The tale goes that a man finds a witch caught in a trap in a forest , he sets her free, and this spirit’s recipe is her gift to him.

We followed that up with a similar cocktail in look. This was the “In Bloom”, the most popular cocktail in the now shuttered West Restaurant. A gin sour with elderflower and cardamom. The pronounced ginger flavour in this made it a great digestive.

And then came the night cap with the popular combination of espresso and Kaluha. A towering glass poured to have a gradient of whites to grey, then brown. Though be sure to drink it quick as the colours do end up merging.

As for food, here is what I ordered, and I want to note how quickly it came out. My first course was the squid, chosen over the Caesar salad, meatballs, and beef carpaccio. A grilled humboldt flying squid with arugula, chili, lemon, and olive oil. This was a beautiful piece of seafood, grill fire forward, but not much flavour otherwise. I would have liked a dipping sauce, some tang to help highlight, even the olive mix over the steak would have been nice here.

When faced between the choices of salmon, veal osso bucco, saffron risotto, or handmade rigatoni pasta; I went for the wood grilled sirloin of beef. It came highly recommend by @pickydiner who only just finished his portion mere minutes before I had arrived. It was a beautiful thick cut, the perfect portion size to satiate you, but also leaving you wanting more. It was prepared the ideal medium rare, a clean slice with a little sawing motion necessary. Similarly it was tender with substantial chewing needed, furthered along by the jelly-like fat that coated it and a smear in the buttery smooth polenta.

For dessert @pickydiner waited for me so we could try both the tiramisu and their doughnuts together. The zeppole is an Italian doughnut with a chocolate caramel sauce for dipping. The dough practically melts in your mouth with how airy and light it is. The dip, a liquid coating that drips, so dig in aplenty.

Truth be told, I am not a fan of tiramisu for its texture or unanimous lack of crunch and chew. But the flavour from the espresso and rum-soaked ladyfingers with coffee mascarpone cream was delicious. I wanted it as a cocktail. Or for this type of texture I rather have panda cotta.

Lastly, our meal ended with another little surprise: a one bit of their made in house guava jelly and lemon madeleine. The cakey madeleine refreshed with citrus and was the texture I wanted from a cake. But the guava was the highlight. A perfect chewy and fragrant drop, that I wish I had a whole bag of, to take home with me.

In short, I highly recommend this prix fixe menu. It is only available for the next week: Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Just before they switch into their Dine Out Vancouver 2021 menu. But if this is any indication of what they will be offering from their choose your own, three course meal they are certainly worth checking out then as well.

CinCin Ristorante + Bar
1154 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1B2
(604) 688-7338
cincin.net

Honolulu Coffee, hot chocolate offerings

It’s that time of year again, Vancouver’s winter chill paired with the romance season, brings the Hot Chocolate Festival back for a repeat year. And this simple dessert or hot beverage not only warms, but is just the thing to pick the city up as we pass Covid-19’s one year anniversary of existence. The ability to be able to take a cup out quick makes this the perfect minimal contact treat. This year the festival runs from January 16th to February 14th, highlight 39 cafes/restaurants and 89 different limited edition hot chocolates to try.

This year I was especially lured in by Honolulu Coffee’s tropical offerings. The Mauna Loa is a showstopper with its volcano brownie side, whoever came up with this is a marketing genius; I wanted it for visuals alone. This is a 70% dark hot chocolate with a hint of cayenne pepper and maple chilli bacon seasoning. The hot chocolate’s spicy flavour spoke to the volcanic heat and theme. You must like a rich dark chocolate to fully appreciate this one. Whereas the brownie with its dual colour frosting magma, and hovering cloud was much more mild by comparison. It served as a good accompaniment for texture and chew, allowing the hot chocolate to take centre stage.

I actually wanted to try the Mauna L’ai more for its flavour combination. However it was sold out when I stopped by the first time. Luckily, upon my second visit I was much more successful. This pink number combines guava and coconut with the 70% dark chocolate for a more tropical, light vibe. The takeout cup is finished off with coconut whipped cream and a guava flavoured macaron. Sweeter and more dessert like, this less chocolate hot chocolate is more my vibe. I liked the guava macaron idea, but wished they made it more picturesque like the volcano side above. Maybe a pink shell with pearl shaped macaron? Either way I got my guava flavour in both it and the drink. However I much more prefer my hot chocolate paired with their regularly available guava bread (think banana bread, but made with guava purée instead of mashed bananas) .

And taking their chocolate offerings to the next level, Honolulu Coffee is also offering hot chocolate bombs! These limited edition features come just in time for Valentine’s Day. The box sets are available at either of their two Vancouver locations from February 8th to the 14th.

Each box includes two jumbo sized hot Chocolate bombs. One is a 70% Ghirardelli dark chocolate bomb, and the other a Ghirardelli white chocolate bomb packed with mini marshmallows and sprinkles. And to make gifting easy, each set comes with a special Valentine’s Day card with instructions on how to maximize your interactive hot chocolate extravaganza.

Half show, half drink this is an experience in deserting. And I just love food that puts on a show before you get to eat it. A great treat or a gift for a loved one this Valentines.

Honolulu Coffee Nelson
888 Nelson St g1, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2H1
(778) 379-6607
honolulucoffee.com

Seiza Japanese Cuisine

Looking for a grown up, night out on Main Street, my guest and I found ourselves at Seiza for some sushi and sake. The space has a modern vibe, befitting of a lounge, leading you to drink, and that we did.

Social distancing is cleverly enforced by the use of plastic bears painted to look like pop culture icons and concepts, including Pennywise from IT and Homer from the Simpsons. (I believe this is considered couture art.)I wanted a closer look, but sadly, where they sat you weren’t allowed to share their table. Though I did enjoy admiring them from afar. And in the spirit of cohesion, their smaller framed brethren hung on the wall as decor, as well.

Seiza’s menu is dense and chic, a hefty listing that spans pages and categories. Although with little descriptions and even less photos it is hard to order without asking a barrage of questions to your server first. Though with his help, we stuck to many of their house specialities, as a first time try.

Like the “Zombie brain”, named for its perceived look, this was a whole avocado split into quarters and stuffed with crab meat, then battered and deep fried, before getting a generous drizzle of spicy mayo. It was messy and mushy, yet satisfying in its crunchy meets squishy texture. (The name suddenly makes sense here.) As for taste it was delicious, great with beer, or after when you need to sober up from all the beer.

Speaking of beer, as we were in a Japanese restaurant, we decided to go for Japanese libations. A combination of hot sake and cold Sapporo to set the tone. The sake getting chased down by the refreshing, light beer on special for $1 off. Apparently this type of pairing is commonplace, but new to me, and I cherished the experience.

But back to the food: There was a sheet of specials to order off of. When I hear and read specials I think discounted food the restaurant wants you to try. However after being enticed, we learned that not all of them were on discount. An obvious point when we compared the regular menu with this abbreviated listing. Nonetheless we went for the uni cream udon at full price. I feel that ordering uni at any Japanese restaurant speaks to its caliber, in quality of ingredients used. And unfortunately the one normal looking piece of uni was hiding 2 grey and discoloured pieces, and this action spoke volumes. And at over $20 for this serving I expected better, considering the portion size was on the smaller size with 3.5 pieces of shrimp and 2 florets of broccoli. The flavour was at least there and the cream sauce tasty without actual uni flavour. I enjoyed the noodles the most. However the udon shouldn’t be my favourite part when it’s only the third word in the dish’s name: “uni cream udon”.

The rolls fared better in our opinion, however they were no different or standout from any crazily dressed and additionally topped rolls you can get anywhere. Due to my guest’s shellfish allergies and fish preferences we kept it salmon all the way, trying three different methods of salmon sushi preparation.

The first is the “Sexy salmon roll”, I am guessing for the way it looks, and then the way it makes you feel: no carbs in this so a slimmer you it insinuates. Here they used crab meat instead of rice. Although a clever no carb substitute, I found its sweetness overpowering, hiding the freshness of the salmon, which should have been the star of this offering.

The “Salmon oshizushi” gave you cooked salmon, which I don’t think was the intention. It was a lot more torched than I wanted, but at least I got the salmon flavour I was looking for here. This was the best out of the three, but I have had much better else where.

The “Ironman roll” hid everything under Japanese mayo and spicy washed tobiko. The menu listed Sockeye salmon, chicken, avocado, and tobiko as its ingredient make up. However I didn’t see or taste avocado, and the chicken was only filler. This sweet and tangy roll did pair well with our beers though.

And just for something to balance out all the punchy flavours, we got a regular Spicy yam tempura roll that wasn’t so spicy.

Overall this isn’t necessarily a destination or a stop if you are craving Japanese food or sushi. But decent as a pub, offering fusion fare with flare.

Seiza Japanese Cuisine
3068 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5T 3G5
(604) 428-5700
seiza.ca

21 Days of 1/2 Priced Pasta at Water St. Café

With all that is happening concerning Covid, business closures, and the struggling hospitality industry; the world’s pandemic has been overpowering all the good that usually comes out of the season. The season of giving and the need to help those less fortunate isn’t front and centre, as it has been in the past. So in comes Water Street Cafe, Gastown’s long term staple, determined to do some good, and kick 2021 off on a positive note.

If you visit Water Street Cafe or their second floor dining room and music lounge: 2nd Floor Gastown; they are giving to those willing to give back. Visit between January 1st and the 21st, 2021 with a non-perishable food donation for the Vancouver Food Bank, and you get 50% off any of their pasta dishes. Or buy one get one free if you bring a friend and contribute 2 cans.

There are six pasta options to choose from, and this excludes their 4 gnocchis, unfortunately. However with some pastas around $10 after the discount, it is certainly worth visiting multiple times before the 21st. The following is our top 3 choices that we tried during this visit.

The Spaghetti Alle Vongole was a lightly dressed pasta tossed with a generous amount of manila clams; along side garlic, shallots, white wine, heirloom tomato, and fresh herbs. Be sure to mix up as the sauce does pool. The bare dressing allowed for much of the clam flavour to shine through. But I personally could have used more butteriness to it, and additional cherry tomatoes for their added freshness. At $13.50 half off, this is the time to try it, if you have been eyeing it.

The Pappardelle Bolognese was a classic with its beef, veal and pork sauce made with roma tomato and fresh herbs. When I think of pasta, I think sweet and tangy, so this one hit the mark for me. This was a clean dish that you can make out the quality of ingredients within. And at $9.88 after the promotion, you can’t loose, and might as well order another to go.

The Orecchiette Pesto was our server’s favourite and I can see why. This dish was well balanced with plenty of broccoli florets, alongside the broccoli-basil pesto, roasted garlic, pistachios, and asiago cheese. It wasn’t heavy or rich, but ate more like a pasta salad. It had great flavour and longevity for $10.25, after the donation deal. This one I would order again out of the three, after trying the other 3 available options, of course.

And if you are like me, you aren’t just going to come in to Water Street Cafe for pasta. With their stunning location and breezy, yet sophisticated dining room; you are probably going to want to make a night of it, and order drinks and appetizers to start. Here is what we had.

I ordered the Vancouver Martini made with Odd Society East Van vodka, dry vermouth, and olives. I definitely grew into martinis as my palette evolved and I discovered the art of holding spirits in specific parts of your tongue. Then chasing it with sharp flavours, like the olives, to leave the best lasting impression in your mouth. This cocktail is a winner in those regards.

My guest had the Earl Grey Old Fashion. A twist on the classic with Jim Beam bourbon, earl grey syrup, bitters, orange peel, and a cherry. It was a lovely spirit, but it kept me looking for the nuance of the black tea, and left me missing the smokiness of an Old Fashion completely.

We followed our cocktails with 9oz of the house red blend each. Red, to best pair with our pastas above. This was a red that grew on you, a medium body that ran well with the salty cheeses of our pasta specials above.

As for appetizers, before we even made our selection, the chef sent over a lovely amuse bouche, as a thoughtful gesture. A dollop of their Salmon Tartar over a cucumber slice, which so happened to be one of the starters we were considering. This was smoked and raw BC salmon, cucumber, dill, shallot, sesame, and avocado; in a ponzu reduction. The perfect fragrant bite to wet our appetites with, and allow us to try something else.

Like the Bison Carpaccio. This is the dish I like to order for those who have yet to visit Water Street Cafe. It is a sumptuous offering that really showcases the restaurant’s fine yet approachable style. It is Albertan Bison, pink peppercorn, shaved parmesan, truffle aioli, greens, and crispy capers. Despite the list of bold flavours, was a completely balanced dish with the cheesy cream sauce, hint of truffle, the tangy capers, and the peppery salad.

It is best paired with additional freshness from the Burrata Caprese. Heirloom and Roma tomatoes, basil, salsa verde, white balsamic glaze, sun dried tomato pesto, and himalayan pink salt. I love the delicate yet bold flavours of this starter, whereas my guest didn’t find it salty enough. I definitely suggest catering the perfect bite by layering all the above mentioned ingredients together for a harmonious mouthful.

In the heart of Gastown, with the best seat in the house, I definitely recommend a visit to Water Street Cafe if you haven’t been in, in while; or have never gotten a chance to. Where else can you better people watch and take in the hourly chimes and steam of Gastown’s favourite monument? Plus you have until January 21st, 2021 to do good and eat well for less. Half off pasta are worth travelling for.

Water St. Café
300 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B6
(604) 689-2832
waterstreetcafe.ca

Mikei Mushroom Stick Ramen

Living alone with a busy life, you often seek instant noodles as a quick and easy meal time solution. And living as long as I have, I am not shy to admit that I have tried many brands of quick to cook noodles and ramen; so when I new one comes my way, I do not hesitate to give it a try and give it a definitive rank on my list.

This is Mikei’s new mushroom flavoured stick ramen. Each box contains two bundles of stick ramen and four packets of sauces and oil for two servings. I found one serving not enough and two too much.

Trying the packet as is I found the clear broth light. A satisfying soup with the faint earthiness of mushrooms. Easy and simple as is, but better as the base to something more. Like today, when we made our own seafood ramen featuring Mikei’s mushroom stick ramen. It was so good, that I wanted to share this recipe.

We started by boiling some miscellaneous salmon parts in hot water, adding in coarsely chopped white onion, several cloves of garlic, chunks of ginger, and large segments of green onion. We allowed that to simmer before adding in Mikei’s mushroom stick ramen sauce packets.

In our case we wanted more depth of flavour so added in an arsenal of sauces and spreads, that we had at the ready. Like miso paste to thicken the broth, sesame oil for flavour, garlic butter for richness, and shrimp paste for enhance the seafood flavour.

Next came additional ingredients. Here we used shiitake mushrooms craved with “x’s” into their caps, for visual effect. And a medium firm tofu, cut into cubes. And what ramen is complete without a soft boiled egg? In order to get the yolk perfectly centred, in the soon to be boiled white. Cut a small hole at either end of egg, and boil for 6 minutes.

Next, boil the instant stick ramen separately to remove additional starch. Drain water and plate cooked ramen in bowl. To finish, ladle broth and ingredients over noodles and serve steaming warm.

We then rounded out our meal with a heavily salted, baked, and seared mackerel, that complimented our seafood flavours above.

Not only do they taste good, but mushrooms are good for you, so any way I can take it, I do. As taken from Wikipedia, “Mushrooms are rich in the B vitamins: riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. The combination helps protect heart health. Riboflavin is good for red blood cells. Niacin is good for the digestive system and for maintaining healthy skin.”

Mikei Red Reishi Mushroom Essence

I have always been curious about such products. Pills and cure alls that promise fantastical attributes with just one dose. Therefore, when I got the chance to try one such product, I jumped at the opportunity to debunk it. I went in with disbelief and suspicion, and came out wrong. This stuff works.

The Mikei Red Reishi Mushroom Essence pills come in a blister pack of 10. This is right number for a first timer to be able to really see and reflect on its benefits.

The pill promises you more energy, and a more relaxed and stress-free outlook, with the focus on the task at hand. It isn’t instant relief, you don’t just take one and feel the effects above. It is a slow discovery and incline. On the first day, you notice how relaxed you feel, a mild sensation that you might not be able to identify in the moment, but come day two and three, it is there. Then four and five will have you comparing it to a time before your ever touched the stuff, the difference is notable.

You feel like you are in a constant state of calm during your day to day work routine. It keeps you focused and working with a steady, low flow of consistent energy. There is no up or down, no crash afterwards, not until you stop taking them. And when you are off of work, the relaxing and calm you get from the Mikei Red Reishi Mushroom Essence pill is like reading a book for an escape: peaceful.

The downside: the cost. At $21.99 for a pack of 10 pills, this might not be within most of our budgets, to sustain a daily dose of. But for those who just need the extra oomph now and again, keep a box at the ready and pop a pill as necessary. Plus, I would suspect that daily use would decrease the effects eventually, due to familiarity. Not to mention it is rough coming off of. You feel the difference without it, in your energy especially. In lesser words, I suspect you are microdosing on mushrooms, in a healthy and regulated setting. So having tasted the good stuff and experiencing the good life, it is now uncomfortable without it.

In short, Mikei Red Reishi Mushroom Essence is a standout product, and the price tag justifies this premium product.

Yasma Syrian Lebanese Flavours

While most restaurants are shuttering with the onset of Covid 19 this year, the ones that have remained running have found ways to create additional revenue by other means. New ideas on how to utilize abandoned spaces, new pop up kitchens, and new ways to bring food to people. Take for example, Yasma the kitchen churning out cuisine that has yet to be seen in Vancouver’s culinary landscape out of the kitchen of Dark Table, the dining in the dark experience no longer in operation. The owners of the space have pivoted and are now focusing on introducing their native cuisine to metro Vancouver. As taken from their website, “Levant that draw(s) on the deep histories and celebrated cuisines of Syria and Lebanon”. I haven’t had much experience with Lebanese and Syrian food, let alone Levant, which I only learned of through discovering Yasma.

You place your order online and pick up at your selected time. We ordered what was the most interesting sounding from their online menu, and found a lot of familiar favourites done with slight variations. And out of all the take out I have been doing this past year, theirs is one of the nicest. Polished with their choice in containers and the colourful ingredients that show through the plastic coverings.

The Fatteh Hummus ate like a layered casserole with Chickpeas, Crispy pita, tahini, yogurt, ghee and nuts. So instead of dipping or smearing your hummus, you stick your spoon in and scoop up a mouthful. The hummus was also lighter than what I am use to, a mildness to not overpower the chickpeas I suspect.

But in terms of pairings to pita, the Muhammara dip is what I preferred and what I would recommend. A stunning orange paste of Pomegranate Molasses, Pepper, Walnuts, and bread crumbs. Familiar, yet different, and simply delicious. This was my favourite of all our dishes that we enjoyed.

For something refreshing and a great way to cut through all the bold flavours, we looked to the pickled vegetables. A handsome assembly which included a pickled cherry tomato that was an unexpected and tasty treat with its tang.

The Tabouleh Salad with its spicy and refreshing notes, also helped to balance out our feast. It is pretty much a parsley salad peppered with tomato, onion, cracked wheat, and lemon juice.

The Lamb Sausages were nice to nibble on. A string of linked up minced lamb, pine nuts, and pomegranate molasses. They were zesty with a hint of spice, a heat well balanced by the sweetness of the peppers and red onions.

The Fried Kibbeh came in threes. They are like fried empanadas stuffed with minced Lamb, bulgur, onions, and nuts. A pretty mild dumpling alone, so best with a dip in their tangy yogurt sauce for moisture and freshness.

The kabobs were the most encompassing entree. It came with a side of roasted vegetables and cold side salad. The roasted vegetables were an impressive collection of asparagus, nugget potatoes, coloured peppers, sun chokes, onions, and tomato. The salad, a mix of tomato, cucumber, onion, and parsley. As for the actually kabob.We had the Aleppo Kabab which was like a Minced lamb meat ball crusted in pistachios and peppers. It was nice and chewy skewers, but I wanted more depth from their flavour and a nice rice to enjoy with it, out of preference.

A similar set was the Salmon Kabab that came with a white cream sauce. Grilled Skewers marinated in lemon, garlic and olive oil. A little on the dry side so helped along by the liquid cream.

And the best part, all the above makes for great leftovers, the flavours only heighten and the spices carry forward. Overall a cuisine worth trying for the experience alone.

Yasma
2611 W 4th Ave, Vancouver, BC V6K 1P8
(604) 723-5782
yasma.ca

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